Mushroom Barley Soup

Zuppa di orzo e funghi

What to do with a spare ham bone if, like me, you don’t care too much for split pea soup? Well, what about a barley soup? While barley soup is usually made with beef, it tastes just a delicious with pork and ham in particular.

Ingredients

For 4 servings

For the soffritto:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Olive oil

For the soup:

  • 1 cup barley
  • A ham bone (or ham hock)
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • Enough water to cover generously (or a mixture of broth and water)

For the mushroom garnish:

  • 100g (1 cup) sliced (or chopped) fresh mushrooms
  • 1 handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • Olive oil

Directions

Sauté the onion and carrot until soft, then add the garlic and stir. Season as you go. Add the barley, allow it sauté gently as well for just a minute or two to absorb the flavor of the aromatics.

Place the ham bone (or ham hock) over the barley, together with a sprig of rosemary. Pour in enough water to cover all the ingredients generously, by at least 5 cm/3 in.

Simmer the barley and other ingredients for at least an hour, until the barley is nice and tender but not mushy. Add water from time to time if you need to—and chances are, you probably will, since barley absorbs a lot of liquid.

About 15 minutes or so before the soup is ready, sauté some thinly sliced mushrooms in a bit more olive oil until nicely browned and reduced, mixing in a bit of minced parsley just before you remove the mushrooms from the heat. Add the sautéed mushrooms to simmer along with the barley until done.

Remove the ham bone from the pot, scrape off any bits of ham meat, chop it up and add the meat back into the pot. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Serve hot, topped if you like with un filo d’olio and a generous grind of black pepper.

Notes

This is a wonderfully rustic soup that lends itself to any number of variations. Probably most common is the substitution of dried mushrooms, reconstituted in warm water but not sautéed, for the fresh mushrooms, which gives the soup a much more assertive mushroomy flavor. You can also vary the aromatics by, for example, adding some leek and/or celery. You can also vary the herbs—instead of rosemary, a bay leaf and/or some fresh thyme is a nice change of pace. Some recipes also make this soup ‘creamy’ with the addition of buttermilk, milk or cream.

The soup can be made ahead, but if you do, you’ll need to add more water or broth, as the barley will just keep absorbing the liquid until none is left. Perhaps there is a limit to the liquid that barley can absorb, but if there is, I haven’t encountered it yet.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Rating: 51

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients

    For the soffritto:
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • For the soup:
  • 1 cup barley
  • A ham bone (or ham hock)
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • Enough water to cover generously (or a mixture of broth and water)
  • For the mushroom garnish:
  • 100g (1 cup) sliced (or chopped) fresh mushrooms
  • 1 handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • Olive oil

Directions

  1. Sauté the onion and carrot until soft, then add the garlic and stir. Season as you go. Add the barley, allow it sauté gently as well for just a minute or two to absorb the flavor of the aromatics.
  2. Place the ham bone (or ham hock) over the barley, together with a sprig of rosemary. Pour in enough water to cover all the ingredients generously, by at least 5 cm/3 in.
  3. Simmer the barley and other ingredients for at least an hour, until the barley is nice and tender but not mushy. Add water from time to time if you need to—and chances are, you probably will, since barley absorbs a lot of liquid.
  4. About 15 minutes or so before the soup is ready, sauté some thinly sliced mushrooms in a bit more olive oil until nicely browned and reduced, mixing in a bit of minced parsley just before you remove the mushrooms from the heat. Add the sautéed mushrooms to simmer along with the barley until done.
  5. Remove the ham bone from the pot, scrape off any bits of ham meat, chop it up and add the meat back into the pot. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  6. Serve hot, topped if you like with un filo d'olio and a generous grind of black pepper.
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18 Responses to “Mushroom Barley Soup”

  1. 20 December 2010 at 12:39 #

    Thanks, folks, for all your kind comments. It's so nice to hear from all of you out there!

    For all those celebrating, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

  2. 20 December 2010 at 11:21 #

    Ahhh…. this is my perfect cold weather meal!! Nicely done!

  3. 20 December 2010 at 08:25 #

    This soup looks very flavourful and I always have barley in my pantry. Thanks for the idea!

  4. 20 December 2010 at 03:00 #

    This looks so delicious! Love mushrooms a lot.

  5. 19 December 2010 at 14:12 #

    I'd take this any day over split pea soup.

  6. 18 December 2010 at 18:58 #

    Frank, that looks so warm and comforting..real Nonna food!

  7. 18 December 2010 at 17:11 #

    Hi Frank – it sounds delicious. I usually make mine right after Thanksgiving, with turkey stock. It is a favorite around here, so satisfying.
    LL

  8. 18 December 2010 at 11:24 #

    As with all your recipes, this looks amazing. Very warming and full of flavor. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    I've given you an award on my blog because you've made me a better cook through the recipes you share.

    Thank you.

  9. 18 December 2010 at 05:48 #

    Hmmm, proper comfort soup!

  10. 17 December 2010 at 03:39 #

    I cannot begin to tell you how enticing this soup looks today with a yard full of snow out yonder….delicious post

  11. 16 December 2010 at 23:37 #

    Just in time for our big series of rain storms. Warm & cozy in our old adobe sipping this fine savory soup. love it!

  12. 16 December 2010 at 15:56 #

    Sounds great. I have been making a lot of soups lately—and my girlfriend loves mushrooms… So I think I will have to make this recipe for her. Thanks !

  13. 16 December 2010 at 14:24 #

    I totally hear you on the barley constantly absorbing the liquid! And now, I've not figured out the limit, either, on when it'll be done absorbing, haha. Thank you for sharing! I actually like a split-pea and barley soup… add some scallons and it's very hearty! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  14. 16 December 2010 at 10:55 #

    That sounds like a great soup and good use of the leftover holiday ham bone.

  15. 16 December 2010 at 08:52 #

    Hi

    Great recipe and there are many people like this post. They want to make this at home.

  16. 16 December 2010 at 07:15 #

    That looks just delicious! We usually use our ham bones for ham and beans…you're not a good girl in the country if you can't make ham and beans! Will be bookmarking this for my next ham bone!

  17. 16 December 2010 at 02:57 #

    Hi

    Great information in this post and I think this is a wonderfully rustic soup that lends itself to any number of variations. Probably most common is the substitution of dried mushrooms, reconstituted in warm water but not sautéed, for the fresh mushrooms, which gives the soup a much more assertive mushroomy flavor.

  18. 15 December 2010 at 22:01 #

    This sounds very tasty… I love soups and stews so I'll have to give this recipe a try!

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